Made for NFL: Why do-it-all Vol Alvin Kamara is in the conversation to become first-round draft pick

Jan 1, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Tennessee Volunteers running back Alvin Kamara (6) runs with the ball against the Northwestern Wildcats during the first half in the 2016 Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — He’s one of the more beloved players to come through the Tennessee football program.

Alvin Kamara arrived after spending stints at Alabama in 2013 and Hutchinson Community College in 2014. Now after two successful seasons on Rocky Top, Kamara begins his preparation for the next level in the NFL.

The former running back is all-in for training as he prepares for the NFL Draft. There are no days off for dream-chasers, and Kamara spent the early part of Super Bowl Sunday by continuing to train on the sport’s biggest day. The soon-to-be NFL back also took time to discuss his process to the NFL with Saturday Down South.

“I’m down in Miami training,” Kamara told Saturday Down South on Super Bowl Sunday. “A lot of people have me in the second round and a little buzz about the first round, but I try not to look at it.”

Working, training and preparing for the NFL while not paying a lot of attention to what others are saying is what keeps Kamara focused on what he can provide at the next level. Being a versatile back is his ticket to being a factor in the NFL.

Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady essentially described a new position — a “passing back” — when he described the role James White filled so admirably for the Patriots this season.

Kamara, without specifically using the term, sees himself in a similar kind of role. He led all SEC running backs in receptions (40), yards (392) and touchdown catches (4) this past season.

“I feel like that will be my role, kind of like what everyone saw at Tennessee but a little more,” Kamara said. “Being able to catch the ball out of the backfield and carry the ball in between the tackles and also to the outside and to line up in the slot, also something I’ve really worked on is pass protection. It’s a different league, so of course there will be things to work on, but I feel like I am a complete back.”

Nov 26, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; Tennessee Volunteers running back Alvin Kamara (6) hurdles a teammate for a short gain during the first half against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Vanderbilt Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Kamara, 5-10, 215 pounds, also knows that the NFL is about fit. Fitting in a pro-style offense and understanding how a coaching staff uses a player’s talents will be key.

“I think I will fit in,” he said, “but it also depends on where you end up, too. What a coach wants to do in an offensive scheme is a big part of it.

“A lot of backs are becoming more of a factor in the passing game, so with that being part of my strengths, hopefully I can be with an organization that uses a back like that in the passing game. Talking to teams, they have recognized my versatility and it’s a good thing with the league moving towards complete versatile backs to cause mismatches against defenses.”

NFL Draft analysts certainly have noticed.

Former NFL player turned analyst Mike Mayock, for one, said earlier this month that Kamara has “first-round ability.”

“I don’t know anything about the kid. I don’t know why he left Alabama. I don’t know what his work ethic is or isn’t. All I know is that I watched two tapes and what I saw was a running back with first-round potential,” Mayock told the Knoxville News Sentinel. “That doesn’t mean he is going first round and it’s a long process between now and the end of April. But he has got the physical characteristics you are either born with or you’re not.

“He’s got acceleration, he’s got burst, he’s got balance, he’s got good hands and he can play out wide. What surprised me a little was his play strength was a little bit better than expected. He fits today’s NFL.”

Kamara’s versatility also crosses over into special teams play and what he can provide in the kick and punt return game. He returned a punt for a touchdown in 2015.

“That’s one thing I pride myself in is being versatile, being a weapon on special teams, being able to catch the ball out of the backfield and doing the little things to be a complete player,” he said.

Kamara relishes his time at Tennessee and was proud of the fact he was able to produce on the field while sharing touches in a talented backfield.

“I’m thankful for this past (2016) season,” he said. “I was able to showcase being a complete back and coach Jones always set things up to help the team and play to my strengths. To be in an organization that supports you and better your weaknesses.”

That team-first approach is one reason Butch Jones named Kamara a captain. Not surprisingly, Kamara’s most memorable games were not his best games statistically, but better moments for the team as a whole.

He dominated Texas A&M — 288 total yards, 3 touchdowns — but the Vols lost, so cross that game off the highlight reel.

“I would say the (2016) Georgia game was my most memorable game with the ending it had,” he said. “Florida was a big win and I played my roles, but the Georgia game is what Tennessee fans will remember for a long time with Jauan (Jennings) coming down with the ball.

“The brotherhood and camaraderie through the coaches and players sticks out. Being able to bond with other players was a big part of the success I had at Tennessee.”

Kamara will continue to train and prepare for the NFL draft with the NFL combine slated to begin Feb. 28.

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  • He could be a successful RB in the NFL because of his versatility…but not a 1st round talent. He’s not going to carry the ball 20 times in a game.

    • He could touch the ball 20 times a game…..you know, because of the versatility thing. I’ve seen more than one draft expert have him as the third best back in the draft behind Fournette and Cook. McCaffery will prob go ahead of him too, but that’s it. He will do well at the combine as well.

      • I think Fournette will be the only back to go in the 1st round. It just doesn’t happen unless you think the player has AP kind of talent. Good RBs can be found in the 2nd and 3rd rounds.

        • Very wrong weagle… At least four backs will go 1st this year. One of the most special rb classes of all time. Cook, fournette, Jamaal williams, Samaje Perine, Christian Mac, and if it was for off field stupidity, Joe Mixon as well all have 1st round talent. RB is a position of tremendous use as of late and teams love 2-3 back systems in the league. I have cook as RB1 because of his ability to create and receiving talent, pays huge dividends in the league.

        • I Think Kamara gets picked ahead of Williams, Perine, and Mixon. But I have to agree with weagle. RB’s are of lower value than most positions. I would say that D-line, QB, DB, O-line, Receiver, and maybe LB’s are ahead of RB’s in the draft pecking order.

        • There will be at least two RB’s taken in the first round. After that, it’s pretty much of a crapshoot for the position. Some team may step up and take another RB in the first round, but there is no telling who that back would be. After the top two, the rankings for these guys is all over the map.

  • This coming from a Homer…
    But I can see Tennessee having 3 first round Picks..
    Barnett
    Kamara
    Sutton
    These guys are all great picks…

    • Barnett certainly, although I can see him slipping to later in the first round, because he prob wont be a combine freak. But we know his production has always spoke for itself. Kamara will probably get taken in the 2nd and I can see Sutton going in the 2nd or 3rd. He did well in the Senior Bowl and his stock has risen if anything.

  • “I don’t know anything about the kid. I don’t know why he left Alabama. I don’t know what his work ethic is or isn’t. All I know is that I watched two tapes and what I saw was a running back with first-round potential,” Mayock told the Knoxville News Sentinel.

    He was dismissed from Bama for a “lack of effort and attitude”. $.05 head in a $1M body…

    • Kid was injured and pushed down the depth chart his first year at Bama. He also had some character issues. But I don’t see how anything he did at UT would make you think that he is anywhere close to the same person/player that one year at Bama. Kamara was named one of Four perminant captains after only two years on campus and stepped in immediately and became the leader of the RB group and one of the leaders on the team. He was also the running back that improved his draft stock the most and will prob be a second round pick. You are clueless when it comes to AK. Prob just mad he wanted to get out of jawja.